Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Think Tank

Date: Oct. 25, 2013
Staff Representative: Rachel Schulman
Member Representative: N/A

Highlights: FEMA held a Think Tank in conjunction with the International Association of Emergency Managers Conference in Reno, NV, with non-conference attendees participating via conference call. Presenters from the Department of Homeland Security, University of California at Berkeley, and Texas A&M University discussed ongoing efforts to develop and use robots to assist with emergency response. So far, robots have proven most useful when used to enter and observe areas that humans and dogs cannot reach, either due to size or the presence of hazardous materials. They are typically used about a week into response, more as part of recovery efforts than lifesaving ones, though newer technologies are being developed to focus on the latter. Significant obstacles to the successful use of robots include the training of human operators to effectively interact with the robots, adapting robots developed by the military for non-military purposes, awareness of robot capabilities and availability, and cost. Speakers identified Robotics Without Borders as one mechanism to provide no-cost use of robotic technology for response.

About Rachel Schulman

Rachel Schulman is a Senior Program Analyst for Public Health Preparedness at NACCHO. Her work includes enhancing and recognizing local public health preparedness planning efforts through Project Public Health Ready and building collaborations between public health and emergency management. Twitter: @rms_ph

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